Cellist Rachel Gawell Burns is a bold performer with a gutsy approach to her instrument. Trained classically alongside the world's top-tier string players, she has a passion and natural instinct for challenging musical environments. From rock bands to chamber music ensembles to experimental noise music, Rachel's playing distinguishes itself by pairing a rigorous conservatory skillset with expanding what is possibile on the cello.
Born and raised in Maryland, Rachel began studying violin at age 4. Liking the growl of the low notes best, she switched to cello. As a preteen she was accepted into Peabody Preparatory, and began study with National Symphony principal David Hardy, continuing through her years at Baltimore School for the Arts and Peabody Conservatory. Rachel participated in prestigious music institutes including Fontainebleau, Bowdoin International Music Festival, Encore School for Strings, and Boston University Tanglewood Institute. She appeared on NPR's From The Top and performed with Yo-Yo Ma at the Music Center at Strathmore.
In college Rachel gained a love of modern music through participation in the Henry Mancini Institute, Peabody Camerata, and Bowdoin's Gamper Festival of Contemporary Music. During this time she performed some of the most challenging repertoire for cello. She studied in the postgraduate program at Rotterdam Conservatory, where she served as principal cellist in the Codarts Symphonic Orchestra and The Ricciotti Ensemble. She also co-founded experimental noise band Anorak with drummer Onno Govaert and pianist Andrea Taeggi.
Rachel was a founding member of The Ballroom Thieves and can be heard on their first releases The Devil & The Deep and The Ballroom Thieves. She also toured and recorded with River City Extension and is featured on their album Deliverance. Rachel teamed up with Mike Costaney in 2015 to launch Baba Sonya which has been featured on Spotify's U.S. Viral Top 50 playlist. Rachel collaborates frequently with Beecher's Fault and can be heard on their recent singles "Hesitating" and "Head On." She works as a session musician and can be hired directly through SoundBetter. Rachel performed onstage at the Broadway musical Waitress from 2018-to 2020 and can be currently seen onstage on guitar at SIX.
Gawell has served as a teaching artist in New York City through several organizations including the New York Philharmonic's Very Young Composers program, Youth Orchestra of St. Lukes, and The Center for Educational Innovation. Rachel encourages her students to unlock their artistic expression through improvising and writing their own songs. She is committed to paying forward what she has received from her teachers and fostering a love of music in the next generation.